It has been over a year since 11-year-old Cora Gonzales died after being hit by a car near her home in Michigan. Cora and her family, “Team Gonzales”, were a huge part of AYSO Region 902 and when tragedy hit in October of 2017, the whole town felt it.
Cora had been playing AYSO soccer for years and was on the Cedar Springs U13 AYSO United team leading up to her death. A very gifted soccer player, Cora had a raw talent and love for the game. If you ask anyone in her community they would tell you she was always smiling, always maintaining a good attitude even when calls didn’t go her way.
“It was hard to be out at the field with her not there. You could feel her spirit there but it was very weird to watch our kids play and not see Cora out there with them. She had a heart for people, always writing sweet little notes to let people know she cared about them. She was so giving at such a young age she just knew how to be a giver,” says AYSO Region 902 Commissioner, Anna Nozkowski.
Soccer plays a big role in the life of the Gonzales family. They referee, they play and they coach. More note-worthy than their contribution to the soccer community, however, is the family’s caring reputation and heart for others. Following their daughters passing, Cookie and George Gonzales knew they had to find a way to honor Cora’s life by giving back. In writing Cora’s obituary, the family decided they wanted any contributions made toward funeral expenses to instead be donated to AYSO Region 902 in order to help give other kids the opportunity to play soccer.
“They are the first people to lift somebody up and it really is amazing in that time of unimaginable grief to be thinking outside yourself and want to give back to the place that Cora loved so much,” says Nozkowski.
The Power of Community
After months of talking about the idea of a scholarship fund, a Region 902 board member suggested the idea of hosting the first annual AYSO “Purple Out” games as a way to honor the 1 year anniversary of Cora’s passing and raise money for the region’s scholarship fund. All attendees were encouraged to wear purple, Cora’s favorite color.
“Everyone fell in love with the idea and we found a weekend where all the teams were playing at our home fields and able to participate,” explained Nozkowski.
What started as a simple weekend of purple, became a silent auction and once media got wind of the event, it quickly turned into something far greater than the Gonzales family or Region 902 had anticipated.
All participating teams wore purple socks and purple t-shirts were donated to the region and sold at the games along with concessions to raise funds for scholarships. At the end of the day, the “Purple Out” games had raised over $4,000 to go toward helping other children play soccer.
“It was incredible to see our community come together the way they did. We got support from neighboring regions and even other soccer clubs within our community showed their support by wearing purple.The competitiveness was set aside for a minute and everyone in town came together for something good,” says Nozkowski.
As a final way to honor the life of Cora Gonzales, AYSO Region 902 decided to retire her jersey #5. We join the Gonzales family and Region 902 community in mourning the loss of such a special member of the AYSO family. Cora’s legacy of kindness and generosity will live on and we hope that her life and her story continue to inspire each of us as we come together to enjoy the beautiful game of soccer.
For more information on AYSO Region 902’s, Cora Gonzales Memorial Scholarship Fund, click here. If you would like to make a contribution to the fund, donations can be mailed to the address below, checks payable to: Cora Gonzales Memorial Scholarship Fund.
PO Box 667
Cedar Springs, MI